Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Just Wing It

I'm jonesing. It's October and I can feel the shitty weather coming (until ski season starts anyway). Working at the university of BC, September/October is a crazy time of year. What was once a tranquil summer time campus is now a hectic bustling bee hive. I need to get out; I'll do virtually anything - before I go insane.

It's a last minute thing. I have no real plans or destination. All I have is a bit of time on this particular weekend (although I have to be back for a dinner party that Sunday night). So I grab my bike, pack up my gear and leave early morning.

It's foggy and cold but I feel good. There are hardly any cars on the road as I quietly pedal to the ferries. The fog is surprisingly welcoming; it muffles all sounds. All I hear is the chain driving my gears and my tires whistling on the road.

On the other side, looking at my map, I'm still not sure where to go. I see a few roads that intrigue me; hmm... I wonder what's there? Pedaling slowly, following this road, my mind goes blank. Almost in a coma, legs spinning, I feel strangely absent. It kind of freaked me out once I got out of it, I wasn't to sure where I was anymore, so I had to take my map out. Luckily I was on the road, so it was easy to locate myself. If I had done that in the back country it could have been bad news. Turns out I rode 20 kms and never realized it. Wow, that was intense.

Now that I'm back on earth, I keep going. It's nice not having a preset route, you just wander, with no particular idea where to go. I'm looking around me but there's so much fog I can hardly see anything. I could be anywhere. My mind starts drifting again pretending I'm somewhere else in a far distant land. I feel kind of silly and juvenile thinking about it now but it was kind of fun drifting away like that.

I get to a small village and stop there to eat lunch and buy some provisions for the evening. It's there where I talk to a few people and ask them if there's a good place to set up camp for the night. After a few suggestions, I decide to go nearby to a small lake 15 kms away.

Around 45 minutes later I arrive at the lake. It's a beautiful ride on a gravel road covered with leaves. Once at the camp ground (which is closed for the season) I ride a bit around the lake trails to see if I can find a more secluded spot to set up camp. Unfortunately I find nothing, but the trails are fun and flowy with nice views of the lake. I spot some fish - next time I'm bringing my fly rod.

Back at the camp ground I set up my tent quickly, as it's getting late. I prepare supper and hit the sleeping bag early while reading the latest issue of Bike Mag. Next morning, I pack up my wet tent early for the ride back home. I'm craving a big breakfast, so I stop for bacon and eggs. I still have a bit of time, I'm riding much faster than yesterday . I'm so hungry, as soon as the waitress puts the plate down, and even though I was telling myself to take a picture for the blog, I'm already in it. That was GOOD!

I'm happy I did this. Some of you may remember a post I did a few weeks back called Wake up. That clip kind of shook me up a little bit and it's pretty much what happened to me on this trip; one of the reasons I wanted to do it (well sort of). It wasn't all that exciting. Actually, it was kind of pointless, which was the point. Doing something just to do something. I like that. I came to the realization that I should stop pondering about what to do so much, where to go and most importantly I should stop talking about it. I should wing it like that more often. What's the worst that can happen? I may regret it sometimes I guess, but at the very least, I'll remember and that's a good thing.

Monday, September 23, 2013


We cheated, yes we did and we loved it!  Finally I'm back on the chairlift after a few years off. Let me explain a bit for those of you that don't know. I used to be a very different kind of rider, a bit of a bike park addict. My definition of epic back then was big jumps, drops and speed. Visiting the ER at least once a year was the norm. My last visit to the ER changed a lot of things. I had a one and a half year old at home and another a few weeks away. Lying on the ground wondering what the hell had just happened (I'll spare you with the details; maybe another time) gave me time to think things through. In the end I was lucky: three days in the hospital, 10 pounds lighter, 24 screws and 2 plates holding my leg in place. Man that was a close call! Needless to say, putting my bike on the Whistler chairlift gave me some flash backs.

This ride has been on my to do list for a long time. Always a good excuse/reason not to do it and it almost happened again this year due to a bad back. But on that day, all the stars lined up perfectly and after a short ride up, thanks to the Whistler chairlifts, we were on our way up to ride the classic epic descent.

Once on the top of Garbonzo you have to ride down in the park for a bit to access Highway 86, which leads you to the trail head that's about an hour climb away from there. The climb at times is fairly steep but we can't complain, in the old days you had to ride up from the village far bellow; now that's a climb!

This is a long downhill, it consists of three different trails: Khyber, Babylon by Bike and Tunnel Vision. The start of Khyber is a steep eroded mess, but fortunately it's over fairly quickly. This is when we realize that a new reroute trail has been built. Damn! Next time. The alpine portion is not all that long. You're soon in the trees on decent single track. Most of Khyber is pretty good but my favorite part was yet to come.

Khyber spits you out on a gravel road. Once out, head left to a cell tower, where it's only a two minute climb. I've heard that Babylon by Bike was overgrown and not really worth it. Let me tell you, IT IS! Some guys must have done some recent work on it because it was in prime condition. Loam, pine needles, steep section and some stunts - everything to keep you smiling from ear to ear.

Last part is Tunnel Vision. Very different from the other two, with it being not very long, but fast. A few jumps and some nice features along the way make it a fun ending to what was a nice long descent with minimal effort to get there. The only problem is that it's so fast, you really never stop to take pictures. I'll take a bit more time when I ride it again; maybe even shoot a short video.

The entire ride is fairly quick. Not having timed it, my best guess is 30 minutes on the chair, 1 hour climb to the trail head and around 1 1/2 hours to get back down. Once done, we meet the family at lost lake and jump in the lake. Another killer weekend!

Monday, September 16, 2013

Joffre Lakes

Story by Nick
Photos by Mathieu (most of them)

"Daddy, I don't know what to wear. This is too orangy and the pink doesn't match" was the first thing Ella said as we prepared for her first real wilderness camping trip. The destination - Joffre Lakes, which is about 1/2 hr north from Pemberton. We would be heading in the morning with my good friend, Mathieu and his daughter, Lily, which happens to be my daughter's friend. The perfect team for our weekend expedition.

We first had to get prepared - what to bring and what not to bring. I won't get into the gear list here as that can get a bit boring and I'm sure the internet is full of them. Google it if you need some help. We basically kept our gear to a minimum by trying to be as light as possible and not duplicate too many things. As it turned out, we had exactly what we needed. Not bad for the first time out with the kids. As far as food goes, that was easy. Lots of snacks for the kids, the usual breakfast/lunch/dinner stuff and the most important part, "reward" foods. If you want to keep the young ones motivated there's nothing like a sugary snack!

When we got to the parking lot, Mathieu and I were surprised to see the lot full of cars. It was kind of a bummer. For one, we didn't expect it and two, we wanted a true wilderness experience for the kids. Fortunately after a few minutes (maybe an hour) the crowds were left behind.

The hike is not that bad; about 2 1/2 hours for the average adult at just over 5 km long . We did it in 3 1/2; damn impressive for two 6 year old kids! The start is an easy machine-made trail, but it turns into a proper steep hiking trail fairly soon as you approach middle Joffre lake. Where, I'm guessing, most day hikers stop their journey.

Once you reach the second lake most of the climbing is over. Here you can choose to take the old trail or the new one that hugs the water fall and the river that drain upper Joffre lake into middle Joffre lake. We choose the old trail and leave the new one for our return trip the next day.

Finally we are here! The kids get a second wind, that I'm still not sure where it came from, but they are pumped! As we set up camp under the glacier and surrounded by the awe inspiring view, we let the kids roam free. Looking at them play on their own with no toys, electronics, distractions of any kind is something rare in our modern world. The lesson I get from this (well one of them anyway) is give your kids a chance to see. Let them play on their own and just let them be. Wonderful!

After a few hours of exploring we head back to our campsite for supper. This is always a fun part when camping with kids, as everyone is involved and has something to do. Not having much water (there is no "potable water" in this park) we take our chances and drink from one of the creeks that feed the lake. Happy to report: no gut rot.

Stars! Living in Vancouver, sometimes you forget how many stars are over your head. Not here, the sky is dark and you can see so many it can get overwhelming. Laying down in the dirt, rock as a pillow, all four of us just stare skywards, sometimes not saying a word, just silence. I'm not sure how long we did this for but it was something special.

Overnight we got a bit cold, it's September after all, and we are in the alpine. A bit of wind, light rain early morning but over all, a wonderful sleep with the glacier's waterfall chanting in the background. Sleeping next to my older daughter, just the two of us, feels funny. Watching her sleep so peacefully with not a care in the world...I'm not to sure how to explain the feeling, but I guess it's something you have to experience yourself.

I hear birds, some light rain and see the faint morning glow. We slowly crawl out of the tent and I remember that yes, in fact, it was not a dream, everything is still here: the glacier, the mountains, the lake. We know we have to leave fairly early (back to school the next day) but still decide to take our time. It's hard to leave new places. That's what makes it so special.

We take the new trail to get back down, which ends at middle Joffre lake. This is where you start seeing the crowds again. OK, maybe not crowds, but a few more people anyway. It takes some time to get the girls walking steadily, as they keep stopping to pick huckleberries. Ella's face is black. I sure hope these are good - I don't have any spare underwear!!!

The return trip feels fast, too fast. Funny, I just realized as I'm writing this, that all my life, with all the "adventures" I've had, big or small, the ending is always a blur. As I'm recalling my memories, for some reason, the last part fades away. Maybe I'm never ready to leave...

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Pemberton - Jack The Ripper

You want it long, hard and steep? Meet Pemberton's Jack The Ripper (aka JTR). I knew this was going to be a long hard day with everything mountain biking has to offer. The whole trail, top to bottom, is single track. You start off with the Big Nimby climb all the way up to the paraglide launch. No biggie; just sit, spin and enjoy the valley views, which are all so enjoyable. Once at the paraglide launch, this is a good place to rest, have a bite to eat and if you're lucky, a chat with some paragliders. Enjoy this, because you are about to go into mosquito infested hell.
Million dollar view

The second climb, Middle Earth, is a short ride on the gravel road (maybe one minute or so) to an intersection. The trail head is on the northeast side. The trail is very similar to Nimby and climbs all the way up (most of it anyway) to the cell tower where JTR starts. Not too many places to stop from now on if you're mosquito sensitive like I am - those things are horrible evil little bastards!!! Just keep moving.
Are we there yet?

Middle Earth drops you out on the gravel road. At this point, head northeast, and at the intersection, continue east, stay right, and after 5 minutes or so you're at the cell tower. If you think that all the climbing is behind you, think again.
By this point you'll have lots of elevation gain in your legs and they're most likely starting to get tired. Unfortunately for you, it's still a while before you're truly at the top. JTR starts further in once you start the last leg of the climb. This is actually the trail head that leads you to Tenquille lake; the trail begins north of the cell tower.

Jack The Ripper has a bit of a story. It's named after Jack Hannan who was killed by an avalanche on Mt. Currie. When I ride trails like this I always feel emotional. I have tremendous respect for my fellow riders. I'm not sure why, but I guess it's because even if I never met him, I can relate to him. I feel we are part of the same mountain culture. Anyway, always pay your respects.
Keep your eyes on the trail but what a view!

Finally JTR sign! You're now almost at the top. The lake (not sure of the name) is the actual top, but hopefully you still have gas left in you. Virtually everything from now on is pointing down, but easy it is not. Steep is the name of the game here. If you're too tired, you're going to have a hard time, and it's not going to be fun at all. Even walking the steep lines are hard (sometimes harder). For me, this is what I love. Exposed and steep; it just keeps coming at you relentlessly. Awesome!
I'll be honest, I was a bit worried at first because I wasn't sure if my riding partner was up to the technical challenges. I was wrong. Steve was riding like a champ; I've never seen him ride like that before. He was nailing lines that even I was a bit nervous on. After I saw him clean the first few serious lines, I knew we were in for a sweet run.
Steve ripping the ripper

We're at the bottom now and I'm tired. After 7 hours of hard riding, we are spent with not much left in the tank. After following what felt like a never ending road back to the car and getting rid of our stinky biking gear, we headed to the nearest pub. What a day! This ride will be on my yearly to do list from now on.
One last note, if you need a map or trail info, head to Bikeco in Pemberton and say hi for me, they'll sort you out. Again thanks to all the trail builders, that was one crazy piece of epic single track!

RIP Jack and thank you.